Bob Baffert switches 4 Kentucky Derby hopefuls to other trainers

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Bob Baffert has transferred four of his promising 3-year-old colts to other trainers, which will allow them to earn qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby while the Hall of Fame trainer appeals his 90-day suspension.

Baffert transferred Messier, Doppelganger and McLaren Vale to trainer Tim Yakteen, who is based at Santa Anita. Blackadder was sent to Kentucky to train under Rodolphe Brisset. All four colts are owned by SF Racing LLC and others.

“We salute Bob for making the tough but necessary decision that will allow them to prove themselves as top talents in racing this year,” said Tom Ryan of SF Racing LLC.

The moves came four days after a Kentucky judge denied Baffert’s request to stay his 90-day suspension but delayed it until April 4 to allow his attorneys to seek emergency relief through the state’s Court of Appeals.

Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stewards last month suspended Baffert for 90 days, fined him $7,500, and disqualified Medina Spirit for having the corticosteroid betamethasone in his system when he won the Kentucky Derby last year. Baffert’s suspension was originally set to begin March 8.

Baffert’s attorneys said they would immediately appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals.

“Churchill has imposed unprecedented unilateral demands and restrictions regarding participation of these horses,” said Clark Brewster, Baffert’s attorney. “Legal remedies on Bob’s behalf may not be finalized for several months. Therefore, the transfer of training from Bob to Mr. Yakteen will mitigate the losses – at least as they relate to these four horses – during the pendency of the Administrative Agency and Court proceedings.”

The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission stated in its original ruling that entry of all horses owned or trained by Baffert is denied pending transfer to “persons acceptable to the stewards.” It was not immediately clear who the stewards would deem acceptable.

Yakteen twice worked as an assistant under Baffert, as well as the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham, before opening his own stable. He has never had a starter in the Kentucky Derby.

Brisset, a 34-year-old Frenchman, works out of Kentucky and Florida. He spent 11 years as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Brisset has yet to have a Derby starter.

Messier won the Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 6. Doppelganger finished second and McLaren Vale was third in the San Felipe Stakes on March 5. Blackadder won the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 12 at Golden Gate Fields, earning an automatic berth to the Preakness on May 21.

At the time, none of the colts earned qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby on May 7 because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. He is suing CDI in federal court.

Messier is being pointed toward the Santa Anita Derby on April 9. Doppelganger is likely for the Arkansas Derby on April 2. Blackadder is expected to run in an East Coast prep for the Kentucky Derby. The biggest points offerings are coming up over the next month.

“The most important thing to me is that Messier, Doppelganger, McLaren Vale, and Blackadder – some of the top talent in racing this year – are able to compete,” Baffert said in a statement. “I encouraged the owners to move them, not only because it is best for these horses and their future in racing but also for fans of the sport who are excited to watch them run. I know that they are in good hands training with Tim and Rudy, and I look forward to cheering them on.”

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.